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We often get disappointed with how our perfectly grilled chicken or turkey doesn’t turn out as moist and juicy as expected. Nobody wants to drown well-cooked meat into the gravy. But it does get tricky when cooking with meats that tend to dry out easily. The amazing rub or marinade you use does not permeate the cut completely. And of course, it takes time along with a lot of prepping, planning and precious space in the fridge. With all this hard work you deserve a moist, tender and flavorful meat. Brining and marinade injections are the two methods you can try at home easily.
Injecting can be a great way to ensure a flavorful and juicy chicken or turkey. The injecting method works really well in turning a whole chicken or turkey moist and juicy. Injecting is different from marinading, though it might come a little closer to brining. We generally brine our turkeys and it does make a difference than just marinading it on the outside. But let us keep brining for another day. Getting back to injecting, think of it as marinading your meat inside out.
You can use your marinade, broth, fruit juices, hot sauce, and other concoctions to inject the meat and flavor it. This method is soon becoming a personal favorite as it lets the marinade to stay sealed inside and keeps the moisture intact throughout the cook while enhancing flavors. If you have a fear of needles you might find them a little freaky. But trying them once is going to change your mind. Once you experience the ease of use and the difference they make you are going to give up your fear of needles for good.
The biggest reason for you to fall in love with meat injector recipes could be the theatrics they add to the barbeque when you inject the meat live in front of your guests and then serve them the best ever chicken or turkey they have tasted. The other one is the amount of time it takes compared to any other method. Practically none! There is very little prepping required, no need to soak the meat overnight, you can inject and then start cooking instantly and you get the assurance that your meat is going to turn out moist and bursting with flavors.
What is a meat injector
A meat injector is not too different from a hypodermic needle. You might have seen one on T.V or in one of your friends’ barbeques. It is bigger in size than a hypodermic needle. Think of it as a big syringe with a large needle. There are all kinds of injectors available these days from simple ones to really fancy ones. They also come in different sizes depending upon the meat being injected and the marinade that you are using. You will find two types of needles a wider gauge one is generally used for marinades that have chunks of garlic or other herbs whereas for a thin liquid marinade a narrow one works just fine. If you have a narrow needle injector and you see chunks of herbs, etc in your marinade, just give it a go in a food processor.
How to select the right injector
- Look for a dish wash safe one, it will be less of a hassle and will ensure that you do not spend too much time cleaning up
- Between a metal and a plastic one, go for one that has a metal barrel as they tend to be sturdier and last longer. The best are the stainless steel ones. However, if you can find a good quality plastic one it should work just fine
- Get two needles one for liquid marinades and the other one for marinades that have a lot of ground spices and herbs
- Decide upon your plunger size based on your needs, while a large plunger ensures lesser refills a medium or small one is good enough for home cooking
- Pick the one that suits your budget, a moderately priced quality product will work for home cooking
How to inject chicken and turkey
While meat injector recipes can work with any kind of meat, it doesn’t mean it should be tried for them all. It works best for larger cuts, meats that tend to be bland in taste and dry out easily. For me, chicken and turkey injection recipes have worked the best. As I said, this method is the easiest to master. Just keep a few things in check and your next barbeque will be as good as any pitmaster’s.
Prepare your favorite marinade or you can try a few of the recipes I have shared in here. A simple broth can work just as well as any flavorful marinade. The marinade you are using should not have chunks of herbs or chopped garlic so that it doesn’t block the needle. As most of us brine the turkey, be careful with the salt you use in the injection marinade or broth. An easy way to remember this is to not let the salt levels go any higher than 2% of total weight. Fill up your broth or marinade in a tall slender vessel, as it will make filling in the injector easy and fuss-free. Take out a clean injector and lubricate the end of the needle with vegetable oil. Doing so ensures it goes easily and smoothly in the meat, causing little or no damage. Fill in the injector fully with the marinade.
Before you start injecting the meat, wrap it in cling film. This will ensure that you are safe from any spray back incidents. Take care to lift the skin carefully and push the needle in, now plunge the injector in. If your injector has holes along the length of the needle, make sure you push the needle completely in. Now start depressing the marinade steadily. When taking it out do it slowly but steadily or else you risk the juices leaking out. To avoid making unnecessary perforations do not pull out the needle completely. As you begin to take out the needle move it around a little and inject the marinade. You can cover different directions this way and cover more parts without piercing the skin again and again. Do not put the needle in too far otherwise, the liquid will come out from the other side. For thin cuts like the chicken breasts and pork chops try putting the injector in horizontally only. For larger or whole cuts you can put the injector in all directions. Inject both breasts before you move on to the legs. These are tougher to pull off as the skin is harder around the drums and you obviously cannot put the needle in through the bones. Carefully get the needle in and push in the liquid. Here too, move the needle around in different directions and cover areas around the leg and the thigh. For a whole chicken or turkey, you might need to inject several times to let the flavors get to most muscle groups. How you inject a turkey is a little different from injecting chicken. Remember the turkey will be hollow inside and you need to moisten the muscles and not injecting carefully could just let the juices settle in the cavity. Letting the important parts go dry. All you got to do is do it with a little care and patience. When you are done massage the injected areas a bit.
10 Tips to remember when injecting chickens or turkey
- Keep the salt content low and the marinade free from chunks so that you do not clog the needle
- Do not pierce the skin, lift it and inject
- Do not make too many holes, try to get as much marinade possible inside by moving the needle in different directions as you pull it out
- Go on adding or injecting the marinade till you see the liquid coming out from the holes, this way you will know when cannot the meat absorb anymore
- You can cook it instantly, keep it for an hour or even overnight. The meat will invariably come out flavorful and juicy
- The best recipe for a turkey inject marinade is the one without too strong a flavor profile. As whatever little taste turkey has of its own will get overpowered. A marinade should complement the natural flavors and not mask it.
- For marinade recipes go easy on the salt and use herbs that work well together and do not clash with the flavors in your dry rub
- Marinade injectors work best with large cuts of meat or meats that are inherently dry
- An injected chicken or turkey will take more time than usual to cook because of all the liquid and moisture
- Clean the injector and the needle carefully after every use, if cleaning by hand ensure you clean the tip you can use a wire or a paper clip
Quick and easy recipe combinations for a roast that is bursting with flavor
Best turkey injection recipe
For a turkey, injection marinade go for subtle flavor profiles. A simple beer and butter marinade works best. You can try a hot sauce recipe or go for a beer and honey flavored one. These marinades will work well for chicken too.
Beer and honey injectable turkey marinade
- 1 cup beer
- 1/4 cup apple juice or 1/2 cup apple cider
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2-3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (pick any brand) or you can make your own Cajun seasoning
- Combine 2 tablespoon each of garlic powder, Italian seasoning, paprika and salt with 1 tablespoon each of black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder & dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoons pepper (finely ground)
- Add salt to taste (keep mild)
Simmer apple juice or apple cider over medium heat. Start adding honey and stir till smooth. Take it off the heat and add the beer and seasoning.
Beer and butter poultry injection marinade
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2-2/3 can of beer (darker ales will give stronger flavor)
- 1-2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoon Tabasco
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon each of garlic and onion powder
- Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients, simmer over medium heat and stir till all the ingredients are mixed and the salt has dissolved. Take off the heat and keep aside. Inject while still warm as you need the butter to stay melted and the marinade in liquid form.
Cajun injector marinade recipe
This is the quickest and the easiest chicken injection marinade recipes. This can be used for a turkey injection marinade too. Just double the ingredients for the turkey marinade and it will work great.
- 8 tablespoons or 1/2 a cup of butter (use unsalted)
- 2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 1-2 tablespoon powdered garlic
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
Melt the butter and whisk together all the ingredient, put them in your injector and you are all set.
Spicy poultry injection recipe
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 3-4 tablespoon hot sauce
- Salt to taste
Do not fret if you have run out of hot sauce, you can always try to make some at home. It involves two major ingredients vinegar and chilies, you can add herbs of your choice to give it the flavor profile you want. This way you will be able to calibrate the spice and salt combination too. Combine and simmer all the ingredient for 5 minutes or till the salt dissolves. Allow it to cool down a bit, if needed strain it before you start filling up the injector.
Bourbon based marinade injection recipe
- 1 cup bourbon
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups apple juice or go for vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients and put in a pan or low heat. Continue to stir slowly till all the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool down before filling up the injector. Refrigerate the leftover marinade or use it for basting as you grill the meat.
Get the injector out and start cooking like a grill master.
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